TomTom for iPhone Review

Correction: the TomTom application will work with the iPod Touch if there is an external GPS receiver. Since the TomTom cradle includes an external GPS receiver, TomTom will work on the iPod Touch when mounted in the cradle.
Update from TomTom’s PR company: the cradle will be available in New Zealand “in a couple of months”. The cradle does not enable GPS to work with the iPod touch.

TomTom NavigatingIf you have a dedicated in-car GPS unit, and don’t frequently travel to unfamiliar destinations, I’m betting the unit is in your glove box, where you left it for security about 3 months ago and haven’t bothered to re-mount it. Mine is.

Sure, I use the device when I’m travelling out of town or to an address that I don’t know. The rest of the time, I honestly wonder why I bought the device at all. That’s not entirely true: I know that I bought it because it makes the car feel like an aeroplane or a spaceship. VROOM!

One thing that does live on my dashboard any time I’m in the car is my iPhone. It slots into a snug holder, and plugs into the car stereo’s AUX input. Coupled with a nice Bluetooth handsfree kit, this means I can listen to music or podcasts, and take calls easily. When I leave the car, it goes in my pocket, as my main phone and mp3 device.

I think TomTom secretly understand the shortcomings of a dedicated in-car GPS. A one-use device. Yes you’ll find that higher-end models have additions like Bluetooth handsfree and FM transmitters, but quite frankly the ones I’ve tested have been poor.

Rather than battle to add more features to their dedicated GPS units, TomTom have taken the alternative route: add GPS to your existing all-in-one device. TomTom for iPhone (iTunes link) looks and feels like a dedicated GPS unit, but it is running as an application on your iPhone. It uses the internal GPS chip in your iPhone 3G or 3GS, and it just works.

The app fires up in seconds on a 3GS, and gets a GPS lock immediately under clear skies. I had no issue with reception. The app is a mix of familiar TomTom presentation (the summary bar below the screen) and iPhone usability (scrolling menus, contacts integration). You can listen to music while navigating, and the app saves state (destination settings etc.), when switching to other apps or taking calls. Turn directions are loud and clear, and even in a gen-yoo-inn keewee accint for the New Zealand version.

TomTom is also releasing a dedicated cradle that apparently has an external GPS receiver for better reception. I’m unsure if this enables navigation on a non-GPS device like the iPod Touch. In my experience, any iPhone cradle will be fine.

The one thing missing from TomTom for iPhone (in New Zealand at least) is traffic. TomTom does have “IQ Routes” which use historical travel time data to determine best routes, but not true realtime traffic info. I’ve got my hands on the new Navman MY500XT, which does do realtime traffic, so will be interested to see how it helps.

Conclusion: if you have an iPhone 3G or 3GS and are thinking about getting in-car GPS: don’t. Just get a cheap cradle and the $120 TomTom app.

Gallery of TomTom UI Shots:

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21 Comments

  1. Hmm.. interesting. Screenshot graphics don't want to render in the forum page, but do in the review section.

    Yeah, agree re samrtphones vs. dedicated portable GPS.

    A built in factory fitted nav system integrated with the vehicle engine monitoring and environment management systems might be a different story. Having said that, if they'd just give me usb access to read-only data from those systems it would be pretty cool too!

    Android is apprently next cab off the TomTom rank.

    In the meantime, I've been using a free app called Nav4All on my HTC magic.

    At present it has a very basic interface and only a choice of about 8 english voices, (Male and female, Brit and american, as well as comedic versions of both)but it works very well.

    The graphics are just arrows and symbols, but you can get a map view, the voice prompts have been spot on so far, it has contact list integration, favourites, driving syles., remember parking space, track and trace etc. etc.

    The routes have been pretty good, although it doesn't know about some of the more recent additions like the Highbrook off ramp.

    And it's free! Gui update is due in a month or two apparently.

  2. And for the record, yes I am complete conflicted over Apple and the iPhone. Their walled garden sucks balls, but the phone’s usability and attention to detail keeps me coming back over and over again.

    To the naysayers that naysay “but but but Symbian and WinMo have had GPS apps for years!”, I say: “I spent a few weeks with an iPaq on my dashboard and wanted to throw it out the window”.

  3. Groovy!

    I can see the next James Bond Movie now!

    I think my Toyota has some kind of serial diag port, but I haven't looked into sw.

  4. And for the record, yes I am complete conflicted over Apple and the iPhone. Their walled garden sucks balls, but the phone’s usability and attention to detail keeps me coming back over and over again.

    To the naysayers that naysay “but but but Symbian and WinMo have had GPS apps for years!”, I say: “I spent a few weeks with an iPaq on my dashboard and wanted to throw it out the window”.

    Go with the little grren robot I say! 🙂

    The Xperia X3 gets closer…

  5. Ive read elsewhere that TomTom has confirmed that the cradle will provide GPS abilities to ipod touches and devices without GPS

  6. Mehul have you installed iPhone apps before? It couldn’t be more simple. Just hit the ‘Buy Now’ button in iTunes app store (either on your phone or on your PC), then after a short download it will appear on your phone.

  7. “Ive read elsewhere that TomTom has confirmed that the cradle will provide GPS abilities to ipod touches and devices without GPS”

    But will the cradle not provide GPS abilities to devices with GPS? Poor show!

  8. It doesn’t work with those bendy holders that stick in cig lighter socket, gps fails! Also multitouch is limited to map browse mode and is pretty clunky loading in tiles, should be smooth as as all local. Apart from that very cool.

  9. I was gonna try TomTom but i couldnt afford it this week (bought a new table instead). Also I tend to use xgps which is free if you have a jail broken iPhone and does just as well 😀
    I may try it though at some stage.

  10. Just a general question though…Does using it suck up all your data allowance? or is the Sat/3G connection free?

  11. WOW…a cracked version of TomTom for NZ was uploaded to a site, if im correct , the same day it was released/a day after..

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  13. Hi. I bought a Navman my500xt last week to be able to use the bluetooth feature for my mobile phone while driving, hands free, which it has. I paired my phone with it and my husbands phone as well. My phonebook would not download. The bluetooth worked to call my contact, which I had to do from my phone, but I cannot hear the person I called on the device. I tried many times with different people. I called the Navman Technical support who are offshore, who knows where, and got nowhere with the person. He told me to take the unit back as not working.
    Also, I bought the Navman as was told it was a NZ product. To my disgust, the voice giving directions cannot pronounce the NZ names of streets and towns which is very offputting. I am taking it back for a separate hands free kit and a different GPS unit.

  14. Does Tom Tom for iphone work when out driving in the wop wops, ie I presume it relies soley on Vodafone coverage in order for it to work?

  15. @Locoloco
    No, you don’t need coverage, just a clear view of the sky so the GPS will work.
    When you install the TomTom app, it installs the NZ maps on your phone, so it never needs to connect to download anything. This makes it HEAPS more useful than Google maps, and possibly cheaper in the long term?

  16. thanks Ben. I was going to buy a new iphone 3gs and a navman but now knowing about the tomtom application I don’t need to get both… phew…

  17. Great write up. The iPhone is truly amazing and I don’t like being without it. This time last year I had jumped in a pool with my iPhone and it was dead. I had to wait 9 days before I was able to get a new one. The phone I had was a cheap go phone. I really love all the games that can be downloaded to the iPhone. The best part about the iPhone to me is the ability to check emails on the fly. Thanks for the information.

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